UPDATE 8 p.m. Residents who were evacuated will be able to return to their home in stages, beginning tonight, Saturday. Beginning at 8 p.m. today, residents on County Road 207 north of the intersection of county roads 207/208 will be allowed to return home.
Beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday, all remaining evacuated residents will be allowed to return home. This includes residents of county Roads 207 and 208 north of U.S. Highway 160. All pre-evacuation notices have been lifted.
Because county roads 207 and 208 remain closed for fire fighting operations, residents will need a Rapid Tag card in order to be allowed access. These cards are available to residents only until 8 p.m. today, Saturday, and from 7 to 11 a.m. Sunday at Escalante Middle School, 141 Baker Lane.
Residents will need proof of residence to obtain a card. This can include but is not limited to:
Driver’s license or state-issued IDUtility billCommunication from landlordUPDATE: 6 p.m.
Fire crews continued to make good progress Saturday afternoon on the Lightner Creek Fire, and they expect increased containment by the end of the day, said Rocky Mountain Team Black spokesman Chris Barth.
“They are feeling confident with how things are going. We do not expect this fire to grow at this point. The crews feel like they have a good initial line around a lot of the fire,” Barth said.
An infrared scanner on a plane is used to detect the heat produced by the fire so that crews can determine what acreage the blaze has consumed and the level of containment. There will likely be an update on both after dark, Barth said.
HHHIn preparation for allowing displaced families to eventually return home, law enforcement officials will be issuing rapid tag cards from 1-8 p.m. Saturday and 7-11 a.m. Sunday at Escalante Middle School. The cards are plastic with a barcode and will contain information used to identify each resident.
Currently, there is no set time to allow residents who live on Lightner Creek Road (County Road 207) and County Road 208 to return home.
“When we reopen those roads, we want to know who’s up there in case the fire flares back up. … We are also trying to keep people out who don’t live there,” La Plata County spokeswoman Megan Graham said.
The cards will be scanned by law enforcement each time someone enters or leaves an evacuated area. Residents are asked to show a driver’s license, state issued ID or other proof of residency to receive a card.
Blistering temperatures and carcinogens released during the Lightner Creek structure fire have put a damper on investigations into what started the blaze at a home at 1255 Lighter Creek Road, said Durango Fire Protection District spokesman Scot Davis.
Davis said there is no indication of criminal activity, and officials know the fire started inside the home before spreading to the surrounding vegetation.
“They’ve gotten closer to the house, but it is too hot to climb inside,” he said. “Crews are working out a plan to bring in a tanker to get water on that structure. They need to be in breathing gear to be safe.”
At about 11:30 a.m., the Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios field office announced a temporary emergency fire area closure for all public lands managed by the BLM within the following designated boundaries: north of Highway 160; west of Camino del Rio/Main Avenue and Junction Creek Road; south of the U.S. Forest Service jurisdictional boundary; and east of Dry Fork/Lightner Creek (County Road 207).
Closures will remain in effect until those areas are deemed safe, Davis said.
Fire crews are optimistic Saturday about increasing the containment of the Lightner Creek Fire west of Durango after progress was made Friday securing the western flanks of the fire, said Barth.
“Much of the work today is focused on continuing to build and strengthen containment lines. The weather continues to be favorable and crews don’t anticipate much growth or fire activity,” Barth said.
Another drone interrupted firefighting efforts for about an hour Saturday morning, according to Megan Graham.
“We know that there were two drones that law enforcement made contact with on Thursday,” she said. “We also know of at least three others, not including this one. The drone this morning came in from the eastern edge of the fire. A helicopter had to fly up to 10,000 feet to avoid it.”
Durango Police Department is looking for the pilot of the drone.
The fire is at 29 percent containment and has consumed 397 acres. There has been no additional damage to structures or injuries.
The steep and rugged terrain makes it difficult for handcrews to reach the blaze, but better access to the fire was achieved yesterday, Barth said.
Wyoming and Alpine Hotshot crews will continue to fight the fire from the ground Saturday with help from aerial teams as needed.
“We do anticipate most work will be on the ground around the fire perimeter,” Barth said. “If the crews decide it is necessary, they can call in helicopters that carry buckets. That water is used to help cool areas.”
No fire retardant was used Friday on the fire, and it is not expected to be needed Saturday, Barth said.
Residents may occasionally see smoke Saturday from the northeast portion of the fire on the east side of Country Road 207, but it is not a cause for alarm, Barth said.
“Folks will wonder what’s happening, but they are working hard up there. Smoke does not indicate an increase in the fire and should not cause concern,” Barth said.
He said the goal is to allow evacuated residents to return to their homes as quickly as is safe to do so.
On Friday afternoon, a handful of residents returned to 18 homes along County Road 206 after the evacuation order was lifted.
The Rafter J and Rockridge subdivisions remain on a pre-evacuation notice.